Annual Elk Hunt Scheduled to Begin in Grand Teton National Park Oct 10

Grand Teton National Park's elk hunt is scheduled to begin this coming Saturday, Oct. 10. NPS photo.

Hunters -- temporarily deputized as park rangers -- will descend on portions of Grand Teton National Park this coming weekend with hopes of reducing the park's elk population.

This is not a new hunt. Back in 1950, when the park's enabling legislation passed Congress, the hunt was provided for -- when necessary -- to help manage Grand Teton's elk population. Park officials say the current elk population is above the goal of 11,000 animals, and so the hunt will begin on Saturday, October 10.

The elk reduction program utilizes Wyoming-licensed hunters that apply for and receive limited quota permits in hunt areas #75 and #79. Under the guidelines of the hunt, each hunter who lands a permit can take any elk he or she wishes. A map showing specific park locations open to hunters participating in the elk reduction program is available at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose, Wyoming.

As a part of their special use permit—and as an added safety measure—each participant receives a strong, proactive message alerting them to the presence of grizzly bears throughout the authorized hunt zones, the park notes. In addition, hunters are required to carry bear pepper spray as a non-lethal deterrent for use during potential bear encounters. Hunters are also advised not to leave a carcass unattended and to remove their harvested elk as soon as possible.

Each fall, park rangers strictly monitor and patrol the elk reduction areas located within the park to ensure compliance with rules and regulations associated with this wildlife management program.

According to a park release, the recent illegal killing of grizzly bear #615 by a hunter in the Ditch Creek area east of Grand Teton makes a compelling case for hunters to carry bear spray and be alert while in the field. Scientific studies indicate that bear spray is more effective than bullets in defusing a potentially life-threatening, bear-human encounter; bear spray provides more effective protection for the hunter as well as the bear, states the release.

Based on his extensive research, bear biologist Dr. Stephen Herrero has concluded that the chances of a person incurring serious injury from a charging grizzly significantly increases when bullets are fired versus when bear spray is used as a defense, said the park.

According to the park:

Bears and other scavengers throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) have learned to seek out and feed on gut piles and other hunter-related carrion during the fall season. This represents an important, highly nutritious food source to these animals, and it can create circumstances when bears aggressively defend carcasses and gut piles. Hunters and other park visitors should keep in mind that dozens of grizzlies use the park regularly and may be encountered anywhere and anytime. All necessary precautions for recreating in bear country need to be strictly followed, particularly those that apply to hunters.

The Conservation Strategy for Grizzly Bears in the GYE guides the continuing efforts by land and wildlife managers to conserve bear habitat and minimize bear-human conflicts through education and compliance with appropriate regulations, including those related to keeping a safe distance when viewing bears. To ensure a healthy grizzly bear population, every effort is made to educate park visitors, concessioner employees, local residents and hunters about living and recreating responsibly in bear country.

Rangers will continue to monitor park wildlife and educate all users about their personal responsibility for maintaining a safe environment—for their own health, as well as for the welfare of the animals.


Why don't we introduce wolves (mountain lions, etc.... if their not already there), and that will solve the problem.

Well, at Grand Teton the hunt was actually provided for in the park's enabling legislation. There are wolves, mountain lions, and even the occasional grizzly bear in the park, but not in numbers necessary to keep the herd in check.

My girlfiend and I just got back from the Yellowstone - Teton area. While we saw large quanitys of elk near Mammoth, they seemed scarce through out the rest of the park. We stayed 3 nights in Mammoth and 4 nights in West Yellowstone. While in W.Y. we talked to 2 ranchers about the wolf problem. They claim that the elk population in Yellowstone has been cut in half since the wolves were brought back. I had read somewhere else that it was estimated that the elk population had not suffered much. I'll guess that it's somewhere in between.
Trying to use wolves to keep the elk in check in the Tetons would be a mistake. When ever man tries to manipulate mother nature there are unforseen problems. There are too many ranches around the edges of the Tetons. Wolves will take the easier kill. I consider myself a nature lover. I've never hunted in my ilfe. However, hunting is one of the best ways to keep an animal population in check. I live in the esat. The deer populations here are higher than they have ever been. Deer may be be cute, but they are also pests. Hunting has been the best, and cheapest way to keep them in check.

Re "When ever man tries to manipulate mother nature there are unforseen problems." You're right, but man has been manipulating nature for a long, long time -- and the park service and other public land managers have to deal with the problems we have already caused.

Across the Plains and the West, the bison were exterminated to the brink of extinction, beavers were trapped by the millions and in some places, the inhabitants of former fox farms, mink farms, etc. were simply loose when fur coats went out of style. The passenger pigeon, once North America's most common bird numbering in the billions, went extinct in 1914. Large-scale manipulation

The recent Ken Burns documentary series on PBS devoted a deal of time to the Yellowtone/Grand Teton area. Man manipulated nature there when the Army was in charge of Yellowstone and soldiers were ordered to eradicate the resident wolves --ranchers' dreams come true. Without wolves, coyotes were long Yellowstone's top-level predator. Coyotes are smaller and usually cannot take down big game. Grand Teton National Park originally consised only of the mountain areas, with ranches dominating the Snake River Valley. Ranchers initially opposed the addition valley land to the park, but of course, ranching had already been an introduced use of the land.

A lot of mistakes have been made, and the effort to redress those mistakes also has its costs -- but IMHO, the cheapest way to keep a species in check is not necessarily the best. It is true that predators will seek out very young, very old, very sick or injured prey, but hunters want the biggest, healthiest and best of each species. That, on balance is not always the best way to control overpopulation of a particular species.

Claire Walter, Colorado

Anonymous made an interesting comment in the previous post:

hunters want the biggest, healthiest and best of each species. That, on balance is not always the best way to control overpopulation of a particular species.

That relates directly to an article which ran on the Traveler back in April: "Humans as "Super-Predators" – New Study Offers Startling Information about Hunting and Fishing"

Here are some excerpts from the study reported in that article:

"By harvesting vast numbers and targeting large, reproductively mature individuals, human predation is quickly reshaping the wild populations that remain, leaving smaller individuals to reproduce at ever-earlier ages."

The rate of these changes was also startling. In animal and plant populations subject to human predation, observable changes were occurring three times faster than in natural systems.

"Ironically, some wildlife and fish management policies contribute to the rapid pace of trait changes. "Fishing regulations often prescribe the taking of larger fish, and the same often applies to hunting regulations," said Darimont. "Hunters are instructed not to take smaller animals or those with smaller horns. This is counter to patterns of natural predation, and now we're seeing the consequences of this management." In Alberta, Canada, for example, hunters who are permitted to target the largest specimens of bighorn sheep have caused average horn length and body mass to drop by about 20 percent during the last 30 years.

The research reported in this story doesn't mean human predation isn't an appropriate tool for managing wildlife populations in some locations, but it certainly supports the comment made by Anonymous on the story about elk at Grand Teton. If hunting is justified as a means to "manage" wildlife towards a more "natural" population, hunters will need to shift their thinking away from the trophy on the wall to removing the weaker animals which would normally be taken by natural predators. That's a huge shift, and not likely to be a popular one with many in the hunting industry.

What's the rationale for deputizing all these hunters? Just legal titles that ended up in the enabling legislature? Or something more... Any insight??

Marshall, the "deputizing" is just the way the hunt is provided for in the enabling legislation.

For what it's worth, this week's Reader Participation post will touch on such hunts in the national parks.

I have no problem with the hunts, though Anon and Jim do bring up great points that I'd never considered. Should be a good discussion. Thanks for the quick feedback...I was just wondering if they were "just words" or if there was more behind it. Thanks!

Marshall -

I haven't checked into this, so I'm just shooting from the hip (an appropriate analogy for this topic), but I think it's likely the process of "deputizing" the hunters may have originated in an attempt to avoid setting a precedent in allowing "sport hunting" in a national park. If the hunters are "deputized," they're functioning in an "official" capacity as part of the park's wildlife management program. It's a fine line, but perhaps an important one in our political and legal system. As pointed out above, the process also gives the park the opportunity to ensure participants in the hunt receive a proper briefing on guidelines for the hunt.

Too bad those making comments don't know the real truth about wolves. They DO NOT seek out the very old, sick or weak. In fact wolves will kill just about any elk they can find but prefer calves and cows. They have created an unhealthy herd balance of very few calves, with some areas reporting a less than 10% attachment rate (10 calves per 100 surviving their 1st year). Hunter sucecss onlarge bulls doesn't compare to the chaos that wolves are bringing to elk herd population dynamics. Wolves are the most wasteful predator in North America, killing for sport, not necessarily to survive. (e.g. on August 21 near Dillon, MT, a group of wolves killed 120 sheep in a single night - Hmmm, I guess they were really hungry huh?) Take a look at if you want to know the dirty truth about wolves. Graphic yes, but the truth can be ugly.

A Montana State University study showed that elk populations in Yellowstone's Northern Range have dropped 67% since wolf introductions (~18,000 to 6,500). A USGS study determined 3.05 elk killed per wolf, or 36 elk per year (again, they don't eat nearly everything they kill). With the ~2,000 wolves in the West, that equals 72,000 elk per year. Maybe if everyone that loved wolves were forced to watch a wolf partially eat a still alive elk or deer they might think differently, but...

Elk Lover,

We look forward to your support on Wyoming (and increasingly Montana's) needless testing of elk for brucellosis, especially the capture and release program in Wyoming.

Or, is the only danger you perceive to elk wolf predation? Are you more an elk lover or a wolf hater? If the former, please consider the ways that the state governments are intruding on elk all in the name of protecting the livestock industry.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

"Are you more an elk lover or a wolf hater?"

I think that is self-evident from the post.

All but the sport hunter celebrate the reduction of the massive overpopulation of elk in the northern range.


Thanks for the links. I have perused your writings, but will spend some additional time doing so. Some good stuff.

I am much more of an elk lover, although my dislike for wolves is pretty deep these days. I provided public comment prior to the re-introduction of wolves IN FAVOR of re-introduction. However, even though we are 3-4 times the agreed upon number of wolves, the environmentalists continue to waste taxpayer dollars by filing legal actions against pulling wolves from the endangered species list. All other games species, including predators, can be effectively managed under the north american model of wildlife management, which includes hunting, so why not the wolf?

Ms. Anonymous,

Sport Hunter? Why does it always go to that? Lack of education on someone's part I guess.

Over 80% of our Division of Wildlife budget is paid for by hunters here in CO, so without hunters, wildlife in CO would be in the shitter. We (Hunter/conservationists) have paid to help reintroduce multiple species in every US state. Most hunters are not the redneck, tobacco chewing lot of cartoons, but professionals that actually might respect the animals we hunt much more than someone who doesn't and get's their protein from the supermarket.

I have personally helped to raise over $6M in the last 5 years to support conservation activities here in Colorado. Money that is spent in on-the-ground activities such as habitat enhancement, conservation easement acquisition, public/private land exchanges/purchases (land put into the public domain), wildlife education and others. What tangiable actions have you taken for widlife?

Elk Lover, Your post reflects an extreme dislike for wolves. Of course wolves do not kill only sick and diseased prey. Like all natural predators, they are opportunistic and do not check a prey's age or medical records before culling them. However, on average weaker and injured animals are more likely to be taken. In most of North America wolves were an integral part of healthy ecosystems long before Europeans arrived. Insofar as excessive kills of domestic sheep, you might want to check the history of how humans with firearms literally decimated hundreds of thousands of buffalo for "sport" and caused the extinction of countless species of animals. I have watched wolves hunt and take caribou and moose and seen wolves injured in the process. Wolves are part of nature, and nature doesn't operate according to human moral code.

In any event Elk Lover, I've always been curious why these so called pro elk groups almost never have anything to say about incursions by the livestock industry on elk. Most people know about what the industry has done to keep buffalo out of the wild, but most don't know that the livestock industry in it's war on brucellosis identify elk as a problem and would like to see all brucellosis in elk eliminated as well - that means only one thing ultimately, completely destroying all the elk herds. That's the only way to get rid of brucellosis in Greater Yellowstone. What would you think about that? And, if it offends you like it offends me, what do you plan on doing for elk in this regards? I suspect the livestock industry has far more power to eradicate elk than wolves ultimately do; they're doing quite a number on buffalo already.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

"on average weaker and injured animals are more likely to be taken."

Not true, unless you view cows and calves as weaker. They are the primary prey of wolvs in the western US (lower 48). Wolves were a part of the ecosystem when there were 50 million buffalo and what was thought to be 10 million elk. Populations of that size can sustain continued high predation rates. We can't go back and change the make-up that the American west settlers and miners (primary casue of elk reductions) and the documented over hunting by the Amerrican indians changed forever. Wish we could, but don't try and align those activities with todays hunting community.

I do have a dislike for wolves and stated that in an earlier post ("my dislike for wolves is pretty deep these days"). Have you ever come across a group of animals that have been killed and not eaten? I have, with a group of 5 elk just east of Grand Teton National Park while snowmobiling 3 years ago. Not a pretty site to see such beauty laid to waste. For the record, among other things, I also despise poachers (just turned one in on Sept. 4th), and having all youth soccer kids getting a trophy just for playing.

Based on 5 years experience of living and working in Yellowstone, I would consider cows and calves to be weaker. Considering the limited area available for grazing, *some* sort of predation is necessary to prevent diseased populations and mass die-offs. Why not wolves? Any male elk that is strong enough to not eat all fall while competing with his fellow bulls to build or protect his harem and then survive the winter too is probably tough enough to drive off wolves. Given that, then the wolves remaining elk prey are the cows and calves. If you have a problem with that, then you have a fundamental problem with nature.

About those five elk "laid to waste", how did they die and how did you determine that? How many times did you return over the rest of the winter to verify that the carcasses were not eaten by anything and were, therefore, "wasted"? Given that this presumably was in winter or early spring (you were snowmobiling after all), the carcasses would keep for a long time and be available for various opportunistic carnivores and omnivores such as bears, coyotes, foxes, ravens, bugs and bacteria. Such is the circle of life in nature. Given the effort and risk involved, I personally would doubt that wolves killed all five at the same time and place, even if all five were sick and dieing already. Can you provide evidence otherwise? This is not characteristic of pack hunters of any species I am aware of. It *is* characteristic of greedy individual "hunters" such as the poacher you bagged - Goodonya for that!

Reading your various posts here suggests to me that you mainly dislike the competition for game and view "waste" of game animals as any use the doesn't have humans as the prime beneficiary. If that is the case, you are welcome to your opinion but I would consider it a greedy and selfish one.


The scientific study of evolutionary responses to human "harvesting" is both much older and much broader. However, most of the best data are from fisheries, where size-dependent harvesting is common and large sample sizes are available.

The particular PNAS paper you wrote about in your previous post bears this out: of the 475 datasets included in their meta-analysis, there were 1 each on a marine snail, tegula, and limpet, 1 study with 24 datasets on ginseng, 1 on snow lotus in China, and 1 study with weight and horn length for male bighorn sheep (showing selective response of decreasing horn length and lower weight for a given age). The rest were all fish.

Ric Charnov's 1981 The theory of sex allocation used data from decades of harvesting of pandalid shrimp in the North Atlantic. Nets catch the larger shrimp and let the smaller ones escape. Those shrimp first mature as males, then switch to female as they get larger. Harvesting the larger females skewed the sex ratio, and over 30 years the shrimp evolved to switch from male to female an average of 1.5 molts earlier.

Some of the logic behind marine protected areas (no take areas) for sustainable harvest of fish has to do with preventing the selective pressure on slower growth and earlier maturity at a smaller size under size & take limits. Other work is estimating the selective pressure against dispersal (low dispersal reduces the chance of moving out of the protected area into the harvested areas).

In response to your question re: coming across wolf kills not eaten on the spot, I have. I have monitored wolf kill sites at a number of locations along the upper drainages of the Koyukuk River in north central Alaska. In virtually all cases, wolves returned to the sites to continue feeding. Other scavengers and predators (birds, rodents, wolverine, foxes, bears, etc.) would also feed off wolf kills. Natural predators play an important role in maintaining healthy wildlife habitat and populations. I am not a romantic when it comes to wolves. I have no problem with well managed hunting and trapping, although I am opposed to aerial killing and use of toxins. I find it ironic that some "sport hunters" want to reduce or eliminate natural predators so that it will be easier for them to find and kill prey species. That seems to indicate a greater desire to kill rather than to hunt - the very trait they ascribe to natural predators.

Make a happy give him an easy access for a soft kill. Remember a happy hunter enjoys a huge gut pile. Ask former Governor Palin! Easy pickings doesn't offer a true wilderness experience, or a decent challenge in sport hunting.

Why must it always come down to bashing hunters? The vast majority of hunters are true conservationists. Remember, it was the most active presidential hunter, Teddy Rooselvelt, that set aside many of the lands we all enjoy today. Most hunter-based groups are based upon his ideals and fair chase principals (Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited). Just like any other race/group of people, there are good and bad.

A "happy hunt" is one where I see animals. I spent 11 days chasing elk here in Colorado last month, but never did get presented with an ethical shot with my bow. I was solo hunting in a wilderness area, covering ground that most people on this blog wouldn't even think of hiking (think 2,000 vertical feet before sunrise). The highlight of my hunt was a sunset on the Elk Mtns with a blizzard moving in and a streak of sunlight breakling through on a band of sandstone. Sorry if this doesn't fit your view of a hunter. If you have never been on a hunt, or been hunting, then don't speak about what you have no knowledge of.

Look, Elk Lover before Europeans arrived in the new world there were thousands of elk and thousands of wolves. Now, obviously humans have reduced the populations of both species, but wolves have been killing elk for thousands of years. Plus, if you love elk so much why aren't you opposed to legal human sport hunting of elk? Another thing is that if you were a real conservationist you would let mother nature do her own thing like she has been for millions of years. I am also opposed to the National Park Service killing off animals. The purpose of the National Parks are to showcase nature's beauty, not destroy it. If there going to allow hunting why not call Grand Teton National Park, Grand Teton Big Game Hunting Park. I will retire now that i've put in my two cents.

I use to hunt late season elk at taylors fork and the elk numbered in the thousands and each year the wolves got thicker until there wasn't any elk left and I quit hunting elk in montana. I took my wife to yellowstone to show her some elk and there were very few. We need to start wolve permits and get some balance in the back into the elk herd. I wish wolves could eat the people that put them there, that would make me happy.